By Mary Owen
Stayton voters will get to cast their “yes” or “no” vote on proposed alterations to the city’s charter in November.
After discussing several changes, including the city’s annexation process; the Stayton City Council agreed by a 3-2 vote that the charter be placed on the ballot in the upcoming election.
“For the most part, changes to the charter are minor,” said Mayor Gerry Aboud, who commends the Stayton Charter Review Committee for the work members put into to addressing the updates.
“The biggest change is voter approval of annexations over 1 acre,” Aboud said. “Right now, approval is needed for 3 acres and that’s in the city code.”
Annexations of less than an acre would be approved by the city’s planning commission and city council, if the change goes through.
“This is an important issue,” Aboud said. “We want to assure citizens that they have the final say on the growth of their community.”
The Stayton City Charter, the city’s operating manual, was last reviewed in 1993. Aboud believes it needs to evolve to “better serve the citizens’ needs.”
Councilor Don Walters agreed, citing “portions of the old charter are confusing and out-of-date, or just do not reflect what we are today.”
Councilor Steve Frank and former Councilor Timm Grimes initiated the review, supporting voter approval for annexations and other key issues.
But some, like business owner Ken Cartwright, who attended the council meeting, believes the charter “did not need to be ‘fixed’ as it wasn’t broken.”
“There are several camps, seemingly split,” Cartwright said about the land acquisition issue. “Some say all annexations should be voter approved, some say none should require voter approval and some say anything over 3 acres should be voter approved. It was also discussed that voter annexations will tie the hands of future councils trying to make decisions in a timely, cost-effective manner.”
Cartwright added, “We could spend years fine tuning the charter, but it is as the two initiators intended it to be, ready to go to the voters for approval, without changing much of the mayor’s powers.”
“When the charter review came about, it seemed like the right thing to do was a complete review,” Councilor Scott Vigil said. “Now since it has played out, I believe in the future, if we have a problem with our charter, we will deal with that specific problem and move on.”
On annexation, Vigil said, “It’s too new. It has only been in the city code for a year. No one has applied, so it’s untested. How do we know we want it in our charter?”
Vigil cautioned that by putting annexation in the hands of voters it could drive up development costs and could be considered anti-growth.
Aboud believes the change will do little to affect Stayton’s growth and development. A recent survey of a large sampling of Stayton residents showed that 80 percent were for voter approval he said.
“There is probably no one who is 100 percent happy with the final document, but, like the original Constitution, the document reflects the best thinking of a lot of good folks working together to try and make tomorrow better than today,” Walters said.
For more information, call 503-769-3425 or visit www.staytonoregon.gov.